Despicable Me 2 is the sequel to the surprise hit Despicable Me which told the story of supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who had debts at the bank of evil and tried to get some respect by stealing the moon.
But if you have seen the trailers you won’t be surprised to find out that the movie isn’t really interested in continuing the story of the characters. The yellow minions were front and center in all the trailers.Very similar to Ice Age 2 the movie expands on the things that people loved from part 1 while doing little with the other characters.
The story without arc
So we meet Gru and his adopted children. He is doing his best to organize a party for the cute little Agnes. He even gets into a dress to make the children happy and he has quit being evil. Gru and his children have pretty much no problems.
There is a hint that Gru wants to make cakes and jam but doesn’t really succeed in that. So there could be a basic story about Gru not wanting to be evil but realizing that being the villain might be the only thing he’s good at.…
But the screenplay doesn’t even go into this predictable yet ok route.
Instead the main conflict is the fact that Gru doesn’t have a woman in his life. What then follows is a substandard 90 minutes of trite unemotional “conflicts” that are fabricated to pass the time until the end.
If you don’t have a mother you are not happy
At the end of Despicable Me there wasn’t anything that seemed missing. The kids were happy, Gru was happy and the Minions have always been happy. But suddenly the screenplay says that the kids are not happy without a mother. Cute little Agnes’s eyes grow even cutter when she manipulatively has to learn a poem for mother’s day… but she can’t get the emotions right… because she has no mother to inspire her… see where this is going?
The fact that Gru can’t be a single parent caring for his adoptive children pretty much renders the entire ending of part 1 mute. But then having a single dad protagonist might go against some “core values” which state that children can’t be happy unless they have a mother.
On top of that the (spoiler?) eventual mother Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is one of the most annoying comic characters I have seen in quite a while. The “gag” that she can’t be serious even though she should be a super serious agent gets old very fast and we are left with an over the top caricature… but then so are all the other characters.
Every character who isn’t from part 1 is a one note gag that gets stretched out without having any substance. Some jokes would be more fitting for a 4 picture webcomic and then might make you smile. But when they are being dragged out for 5 minutes it gets tedious.
But it’s the minions we want to see right?
I must admit that they truly are the funniest bit in the movie. Not laugh out loud hilarious but they managed to raise a few smiles. Similarly to Agent Lucy their gags are variations of the same but at least they are not as annoying as Lucy.
The comparison to Ice Age 2 might be a bit harsh as the minions are way better integrated into the plot than Scratch the Squirrel. Sadly the funniest scenes fell flat to me as I had watched them a million times over the last year when they aired as trailer for the movie.
So when the abduction scene arrived I sighed and wished that the story would get on… then I realized that this scene was much funnier than the rest of the film and by the time I realized that it was already too late… Lucy was back to annoy me.
Despicable Me 2 is not a terrible film – it’s a terribly lazy film. It tells no story worth telling and is filled with shallow characters going through the motions. For every gag that is remotely funny there are a ton of moments that fall flat.
And especially if you have the choice to watch either Monsters University or Despicable Me 2 I see no reason to recommend this movie when there is so much better work around to enjoy and not feel ripped off.
What made the movie even tougher to watch was the fact that I hadn’t seen part 1. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t able to follow the story – that was easy.
The problem was that there never was a moment that showed me any character development at all. Neither new nor old characters were more than cardboard cutouts and I did not have the goodwill from part 1 to immediately love Gru and Agnes.
After the movie I finally gave Despicable Me a shot and found it to be quite enjoyable. Sure the story is predictable but at least it is a story, the main character has a relatable arc and the villain story adds some flavor.
Despicable Me is an unremarkable but very enjoyable animated feature
Despicable Me 2 is a lazy thing that got smashed together and relies on the fact that it can sacrifice character and story for the same gags over and over again.
Maybe the fact that I had seen Monsters University before this – a movie that got called “disappointing” by many people – probably added a lot to my frustration as I sat and realized once more:
There are animated movies.
And there are Pixar movies.